Following the events in Manchester, Paul Nuttall broke with the other major parties’ decision to suspend national campaigning until Friday and launched the UKIP manifesto, titled ‘Britain Together’, this morning.
Nuttall argues in the manifesto that “UKIP is at its best when it is being radical” adding that the party is “the country’s insurance policy, the guard dogs of Brexit”.
There are certainly many populist policies in the manifesto. They have pledged to invest an extra £11 billion every year in the NHS and social care by the end of the next parliament, raise the threshold for paying income tax to £13,500, provide up to 100,000 new homes for younger people every year, maintain all pensioner benefits and the Triple Lock, and cut VAT on household bills.
They have also said they would fund 20,000 more police officers, 7,000 more prison officers, and 4,000 more border force staff, scrap tuition fees for science, technology, engineering, mathematics, and medicine students, slash foreign aid, and abolish the House of Lords.
A huge stack of policies in there that liberals, socialists, and conservatives alike would approve of. Ultimately however this is all irrelevant, because as they put it, they have positioned themselves solely as the “guard dogs” of Brexit, and as a one issue party. Little attention will be paid to the above policies, only those on Brexit.
They have committed to reducing net migration to zero within 5 years, said there must be no ‘divorce’ payment to the EU, that the UK must have control of its maritime exclusive economic zone, which stretches 200 miles off the coast, and if the UK wishes to relinquish its membership of the European Court of Human Rights it must be able to do so. They have also said no EU flag will be allowed to be flown from public buildings, and that they will declare 23rd June Independence Day and make it a bank holiday. There is also their controversial policy of a ban on the wearing of face coverings in public places.
UKIP know that they are in trouble, they are fighting for political relevance, their voters are flooding to the Conservatives, and they have been dogged by infighting and resignations from the party since the vote to leave the EU. While in 2015 they claimed almost 13% of the vote and 4 million votes, latest polling has the party on 2-3%. Since achieving the one thing they have fought for decades for, and Theresa May announcing that Britain will leave the single market, end freedom of movement, and withdraw from the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice, there has been little for UKIP to use to position themselves back into the minds of voters. There is therefore little chance of this manifesto changing anything.
However, while this election is likely to be a crushing one for UKIP, if they are able to survive the General Election and into the Brexit negotiations – and that is a big if – a time may come around again when a substantial chunk of the electorate is willing to pay attention to a UKIP manifesto. Although many former UKIP voters will be voting for Theresa May this time around, this is a manifesto that can be interpreted as a blueprint of what many will still expect and want from Brexit, and if Theresa May doesn’t deliver much of what is in the UKIP manifesto, they know they will always be welcomed back into the UKIP fold…